MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
Bishop McLaughlin senior Spencer Valdespino’s two-out, inside-the-park, walk-off home run to push her team into the district softball finals was one of the year’s biggest highlights. It was also one of the North Suncoast’s best performances in high-pressure situations this school year.
Here’s a quick look at some of the other top clutch moments so far:
Fivay football: The Falcons trailed Zephyrhills 42-33 with five minutes left in the regular season with the district runnerup spot and a playoff berth essentially on the line. Kyrie Rodriguez rushed for a touchdown, Fivay recovered the onside kick and scored again on a 29-yard toss from Tyler Degen to James Bullock to push the Falcons into the playoffs.
Land O’Lakes basketball: Star guard Ernest McClendon sank two free throws to tie the score at 56 against Mitchell in the Class 6A, District 10 final. Then he hit senior Jackson Cannon under the basket with 10 seconds left. Cannon’s layup gave the Gators a two-point win and sealed their first district championship in 11 seasons.
Sunlake football: The Seahawks trailed Ocala Vanguard by seven in the fourth quarter of the program’s first playoff game. Cameron Stoltz and his team gutted out an eight-play, 98-yard drive, capped by Stoltz’s 1-yard touchdown rush on a quarterback sneak. Fullback Jerome Samuels leaped over his line for the two-point conversion to send Sunlake into the second round.
Kendra Secrest, River Ridge soccer: We listed this on the area’s top playoff performances in February, but it’s worth noting again. Secrest gave the Royal Knights their deepest playoff run ever by scoring the winner in double overtime in a 2-1 win over rival Mitchell in the region semifinals.
Brandon Ray, Pasco football: Pirates coach Tom McHugh called his freshman an “eighth-and-a-half grader.” His team probably called him a hero after Ray booted a 21-yard field goal as time expired to give Pasco a 31-28 come-from-behind victory at Citra North Marion in the Class 5A region final.
Sierra Bahr, Zephyrhills volleyball: Anclote led 23-18 in the fourth game and was inching closer to forcing a fifth set until Bahr began serving. The senior libero captured the next seven points and clinched Zephyrhills’ district championship.
Silvanna Paonessa, Nature Coast soccer: After Citrus tied the score at 1 in the second half of the District 3A-6 semifinal, the Sharks turned to Paonessa. Her breakaway with five minutes left in regulation gave Nature Coast a 2-1 victory and sent the Sharks to their first trip to regionals.
Matt Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org